Call for Papers: The seventh Rhythm Changes Conference, Jazz Then & Now

The seventh Rhythm Changes Conference, Jazz Then & Now, will take place at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from 25 to 28 August 2022. This conference marks the twelfth anniversary of the Rhythm Changes project.



Lucas Dols, double bassist and founder Sounds of Change Foundation: Opening lecture

Rhythm Changes Then & Now: Plenary panel on twelve years of the project

Prof. Charles Hersch, Cleveland State University: Closing address


We invite submissions for Jazz Then & Now, a four-day multidisciplinary conference bringing together leading researchers across the arts and humanities and others interested in jazz studies. The event will feature academic papers, panels, and roundtables.


Jazz is an urgent music that responds to or addresses contemporary crises. Its history is inseparable from struggles over civil rights, racial and gender identities, cultural politics, social hierarchies, artistic significance, and new technologies. The music has defined itself through debates around inclusion and exclusion, exemplified by iconic phrases such as ‘This Is Our Music’ (Ornette Coleman) or ‘What Jazz Is – and Isn’t’ (Wynton Marsalis). The sounds of jazz have often been heard as strident, edgy, unexpected, demandingly presentist – as urgent. Or is jazz perhaps more about its ‘then’ than its ‘now’ once we move outside circles of scholars, musicians, and fans? Jazz Then & Now seeks to critically explore how this sense (or absence?) of urgency plays out in jazz and how it contributes to our most compelling contemporary debates.


We welcome papers addressing the conference theme from multiple perspectives, including cultural studies, musicology, cultural theory, music analysis, jazz history, media studies, and practice-based research. Within the general theme of Jazz Then & Now, we have identified several sub-themes. Where relevant, please clearly specify which sub-theme you are referring to in your proposal.


Jazz in pandemic times

How can Jazz Then & Now not address or acknowledge the world’s changing situation? What forms of jazz are there now in our reduced times, and are or can they be creatively innovative? From the multiple closures of jazz clubs to lockdowns on touring and festivals, live music has suffered intensely. In its urgent presentism, is jazz especially vulnerable or vital now? How far are we living a fermata? How will jazz from before the pandemic (the pre-Covidium, which was ‘then’) relate to jazz in the imminent post-Covidium? We may dream in compensation of a Second Jazz Age – à la post-1918 flu pandemic Roaring Twenties – but if our infrastructures fail and our elders fade, where, when, and with whom will we improvise? Or are improvised solutions our best cultural hope?


Environment and sustainability

Circularity, sustainability, no-waste festivals, ‘climate songs’, the ClimateMusic Project, Musicians for Future: This theme explores ways in which climate emergency and environmental debates might shape the production, dissemination, and experience of jazz. How do current jazz practices pose short and long-term threats to the environment? (How) can we think of jazz practices to make them more ecologically sustainable? What of its materials (ebony, ivory, reeds, skins)? We invite papers focusing on how artists, critics, audiences, producers and makers respond to current climate debates.



Museums, galleries, even our universities have been at the forefront of interrogating their own pasts, digging into their foundations, archives, and collections to uncover uncomfortable, hidden narratives of complicity. Could or should jazz, as an urgent or heritage music of the Black Atlantic forged in the experience of the transatlantic slave trade, have been helping to lead such debates? In what ways has jazz, including its studies and institutions, involved itself in decolonising cultural practice and consumption, and are they adequate?


Jazz Now?

Jazz, as studied today, is successful: it flourishes in academia, where researchers produce a constant stream of publications, and it thrives in music education, where students are admitted after competitive entrance exams. Nevertheless, the student numbers both in academic and vocational programmes seem out of balance with the marketplace. Does that affect the relevance of these programmes? What does it mean to be a jazz performer in relation to the major debates of our time? Has jazz education a responsibility to consider such issues?


Jazz Then, and Now

Jazz is a global musical form with a complex history of more than a hundred years. As an innovative and improvisatory style of music, it has become a significant form of cultural expression with changing soundscapes, not least due to hybridisation with other musical traditions. Connected to various social and political movements, the meanings, perceptions, and reception of jazz have been changing as well. This theme addresses jazz from different historical positions, from different perspectives and fields in past and present to explore possible meanings of jazz then and now. Or does jazz inherently occupy an ahistorical position, a celebration of the improvisatory moment?


Further information

Please submit your proposal (max. 250 words), including a short biography (max. 50 words) and institutional affiliation, as a Word document to Loes Rusch and Walter van de Leur (Conference Directors), at


The deadline for proposals is 15 February 2022; we will communicate outcomes to authors by mid-March 2022. The conference committee consists of Loes Rusch, Walter van de Leur, Christa Bruckner-Haring, Nicholas Gebhardt, George McKay, Catherine Tackley, Sarah Raine, and Tony Whyton.


Jazz Then & Now continues to build on the legacy of the research project Rhythm Changes: Jazz Cultures and European Identities(2010–2013), funded as part of the Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) Joint Research Programme. In the spirit of Rhythm Changes, the project team continues to develop networking opportunities and champion collaborative research in transnational jazz studies.


Updates on the conference and information about travel and accommodation will be available on our website and Facebook.



An international congregation for a conference, postponed twice, on the cultural topic of then and now, including liveness, presentism, and urgency; is this a symptom of jazz madness? We prefer to think of it more as a statement of faith in jazz studies as a creative, intellectual community, where ideas and interaction are our currency and lifeblood. We expect that we will be able to gather in Amsterdam, and we tremendously look forward to meeting you there, onsite, in person. We will comply with any measures in operation at the time, which we will let you know in advance.

Rhythm Changes Jazz Now! postponed

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we have decided to postpone the seventh Rhythm Changes conference Jazz Now! to next year, most likely 26-29 August 2021, in Amsterdam. We fear that in the coming months many delegates will have difficulties making travel arrangements; we also expect that the end of the current academic year and the start of the next will require many delegates to be in their posts by the end of August. Given the circumstances, we will circulate the CfP again this fall.

Best wishes, and stay healthy!

Loes Rusch & Walter van de Leur (RCVII co-chairs)

George McKay, Catherine Tackley, Christa Bruckner-Haring, Sarah Raine, Tony Whyton and Nick Gebhardt

…and now for our Rhythm Changes bags!

Of course, delegates come to our conferences for the intellectual exchange with other researchers. Since Rhythm Changes hosts the largest jazz conferences in the academic field, there is a lot of inspiring banter. But the second best reason to be part of these events are the totally cool collectible retro bags we hand out to the delegates. Keep an eye out for this year’s design, presented here soon!

Rhythm changes bags